Remembering Jesse Winchester

by Dan Bloom, producer

Late least week, we noted the death of our past guest Jesse Winchester with great sadness. The immensely talented singer & songwriter succumbed to bladder cancer and died in his sleep at his home in Charlottesville, Virginia. He was 69 years old. Winchester’s personal story is compelling and his music is rich and mesmeric. We will miss Jesse Winchester, but his music will live on in the memory of his fans, and Bob & I certainly count ourselves among them.

**This program and the rest of this post originally ran in April 2009**

It was a choice that confronted many young Americans during the 1960s…you’ve been drafted into a war that you vehemently oppose, and the options are pretty bleak: report to the military, go to jail, or flee your homeland for a life in exile. Jesse Winchester faced this very decision after graduating from Williams College. He chose to move north to Canada, and proved to be a talented singer and songwriter. But one condition of going to Canada was the understanding that he could not return to the United States - no personal visits and no professional touring. That handicapped his chances at solo stardom. During his ten years in Canada, Winchester developed quality material, recording some brilliant tunes and writing hits for other artists. When he headed north, Jesse Winchester never imagined that American draft dodgers would be granted amnesty. In 1977, ten years after he left, president Jimmy Carter did just that. Winchester returned to the United States and settled in Charlottesville, Virginia. That’s where Bob and I met up with him to record a memorable interview in December of 2008.

I had never heard Jesse Winchester’s songs before our trip to Charlottesville, but as a producer who loves music and politics, I have to thank our host for turning me on to his work and his story. He was a gentle, talented and thoughtful man with a fascinating personal story of historical significance and an excess of musical talent…he was the total package of a Bob Edwards Show guest.

I thank Jesse Winchester for his time, his music, his candor and courage. It was a fascinating piece to put together and I hope you’ll find it an engaging listen.

Jesse Winchester, 1944-2014.